Colossians 4:2 reads,
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
Continue, endure, keep going, do not stop, and restart when you do stop. Prayer is not meant to be a last ditch effort, a weak accompaniment, nor an activity only to begin and end a day.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reads,
“Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Prayer is an ongoing two-way conversation with the Lord. We bare our souls to Him, even though He knows us more deeply than we know ourselves. We praise Him and thank Him for everything whether perceived as good or bad. We tell Him our needs and our hopes for ourselves and others. We listen to Him. We obey Him. It is a constant exchange and it keeps us strong, appreciative, growing, and in obedience. In Luke chapter 11 Jesus taught the disciples to pray. Verses 2-4 read,
“When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
This prayer includes praise and requests for physical and spiritual needs. And Jesus told the disciples a parable to let them know God would grant their requests. Luke 11:5-13 says,
“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Prayer is not ineffective. It is not a crutch. It is powerful on multiple levels. It affects the person praying and the people around her. It affects relationships between people and the Lord, and relationships between people and neighbors.
Paul says we are to pray steadfastly. That is faithfully, constantly, unwaveringly, and persistently. Because we do not get an answer right away doesn’t mean we should give up. Paul said, “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” Jesus said it by telling the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8.
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
It is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. Prayer is not complaining or whining. God hates grumbling. Prayer is faithfully asking the Father to grant a request that aligns with His will. The widow asked the judge for justice, not a revenge. The neighbor asked for bread for a visitor, not steaks for a party. The children asked their father for fish. Prayer is not meant to be greedy children with a list for Santa Claus. Prayer is about the relationship with God, our Father, our Savior, and our Peace. Prayer is about glorifying God, through our transformation to the image of Christ. When we pray steadfastly like the persistent widow, our Father grants us our requests.
Paul also exhorts us to be watchful in our prayer. We must be aware of our needs and of those around us, of when those needs are met, and of the fulfillment of God’s glory at Christ’s return. We have to stay watchful, alert, observant, attentive, and vigilant. Our prayer lives influence and involve more than just us, and we have to remember that. It is not just between us and God. Our relationship with God is public, lived overtly and so our prayer lives concern not just us but the world around us. What is the condition of our heart? What is happening in the world around us? What is happening to our neighbors and friends? What is happening in the government? What should we be praying for? Jesus also reminded us to remain watchful. Luke 21:34-36 reads,
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
If we pray and pray, yet don’t pay attention to when those needs are met, we become like ungrateful spoiled children who never appreciate what they have and what they are given. Paul also said our prayer must include thanksgiving. We need to acknowledge all the Lord has done for us and say thank you. He not only blesses us with good things, but He blesses us through suffering, He carries us through trials, He provides our needs and He has given us eternal life, freedom, and the Kingdom of Heaven. There is so much to thank Him for. Yet too often, thanksgiving is an abrupt and thoughtless addition to prayer.
Appreciate what God has done for us! Grasp the greatness of what He is doing. Realize the awesomeness of what He has promised. Be thankful, be glad, be grateful, and tell Him so. Tell the world. That kind of prayer life results in a person without anxiety, a person who the world can’t understand, and of whom they will take note. Philippians 4:4-7 says,
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I regularly hear people say, “All we can do is pray” or “The only thing left is prayer” as if prayer is a last resort. Prayer is the first thing we should do in any situation. It is not a fallback but a lifestyle of constant steadfast watchful and thankful communication with the LORD God Almighty. It is powerful. It changes us. It changes the world.